UPDATE: Victoria council waffles on naming rights policy

Possibilities varied, but realistically, few Victoria structures would likely attract sponsorship

Would the name of the City of Victoria be on the table if the price was right?

Coun. Ben Isitt raised the question Thursday to push the boundaries during a debate about a proposed naming-rights policy.

“Would a tree be eligible as a city asset?” he pushed further. “Would the leaves on a tree be eligible?”

Mayor Dean Fortin, however, lost patience with the trajectory.

“I believe you’re being extremely rhetorical,” Fortin cut in.

Moving forward with the draft policy won a majority vote during Thursday’s governance and priorities meeting.

But by Friday, council’s commitment to the idea was doubtful. On that day, council approved the city’s top 16 priorities to guide their three-year term. Naming rights didn’t make the cut.

What that means for the future of the naming-rights policy is yet to be seen.

“That will be a discussion that’s upcoming,” said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon. “We have gone through a democratic exercise in identifying our priorities. To start shifting our minds at this point … it’s interesting.”

If council votes to pursue a naming-rights policy, it will proceed to a full-public consultation before being adopted.

The goal of the consultation would be to gauge support of this revenue-generating idea and help narrow down which city assets should be on the market for naming, if any.

The range of possibilities for corporate naming are wide: fire halls, municipal buildings, community centres.

Realistically, however, the assets likely to attract sponsorship are fewer. On Thursday, city staff identified the conference centre, community centres, the Crystal Pool and “bridges.”

Coun. Pam Madoff wondered how much a corporate naming right is worth to the city. “How are those decisions going to be made?” she asked.

As an example, Madoff pointed to the University of British Columbia, where a corporation must pay one-third of the cost of a building to put its name on it.

Coun. Lisa Helps said that’s the appropriate scale to look at.

“If someone wanted to name the Johnson Street Bridge, they’d have to pay a minimum of $31 million,” she said. “That’s an interesting proposition. I’m very interested in that.”

If it happens, public consultation would likely be held in conjunction with the city’s public budget meetings, scheduled for the fall.

Linking the two discussions would have the advantage of putting potential naming-rights revenue in context of the city’s greater financial picture, said Coun. Marianne Alto, who drafted the first naming-rights policy for discussion at council.

rholmen@vicnews.com